TULSA, Okla. (NewsNation Now) — The coronavirus pandemic led leaders from many companies to announce employees will continue to work from home this year. Thanks to technology, many people can work almost anywhere, and now city leaders in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are trying to capitalize on that trend.
City leaders are offering people $10,000 to relocate to Tulsa.
Nestled between the Osage Hills and the Ozark Mountains, about 100 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, lies Tulsa. It’s the state’s second-largest city, and it bears a storied past, from its Native American settling and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 to the drilling boom that made it the “oil capital of the world.”
It’s a utopia for those torn between wanting big-city splendors and the charms of small-town life.
“We’ve got a top 10 opera in the nation, we’ve got a beautiful ballet, we’ve got museums,” said Grant Bumgarner, Tulsa Remote’s community manager. “We’ve got incredible amenities; the only difference is they’re cheaper and easier to get to, and there’s a stronger community built around them.
In the language of the Creek Tribe, Tulsa means “old town,” and in an effort to bring new life, diversity, and perspective to the energy-sector city, Tulsa visionaries created Tulsa Remote.
“We basically pay people $10,000 to do the job they’re already doing, just from Tulsa, for one year,” Bumgarner explained.
That’s right, Tulsa Remote will pay people $10,000 to move to the city and continue to work remotely. The program quickly became appealing to candidates like Obum Ukabam and Bobby Reyes.
“It did seem too good to be true, and one day when I was going to work on the bus, it was like six o’clock, I was like, why not. So, I filled out the application, did everything, and sent it off,” said Reyes.
“It was destiny, I was destined to find it—because I found it on a Facebook post that I could have just missed,” said Obum.
Both men got accepted. Ukabam moved from California two years ago; he’s one of the original Tulsa Remote members. He worked his remote gig for about a year before landing a job at Tulsa’s Holberton School for aspiring software engineers who dream of making it big in Silicon Valley.
“I remember looking over at my wife, and I said, ‘This city looks pretty cool, this program looks pretty cool; if I get in would you consider uprooting our lives and moving to Oklahoma? Is that okay?’ and she was like ‘yeah,’” said Ukabam.
Reyes is a new member and software designer. He and his partner moved in November, uprooting a comfortable life in Chicago to take a chance on Tulsa. He says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the city’s people, opportunities, and Tulsa’s food scene.
“Except for like deep dish (pizza), that’s a really big thing for me. I had to deliver Lou Malnati’s here, so for pizza Friday that’s like what we do,” Reyes said.
Reyes and Ukabam are two of more than 400 Tulsa remotes. Bumgarner helps choose applicants; he says the program has exploded.
“We were surprised, we thought maybe the first year we’d bring in 20-25 people. We ended up bringing in 70 people out of 10,000 applicants the first year, and the second year we brought in over 350 individuals from those 25,000 applications,” Bumgarner said.
In its third year, Tulsa Remote now has a lower acceptance rate than any college in the country, with less than 2% of applicants getting accepted.
“We have people from bankers to software engineers to opera singers from Japan,” Bumgarner said.
Although there have been restrictions due to the COVID1-19 pandemic, Ukabam and Reyes are finding new and individual ways of getting involved and expanding Tulsa’s horizons. In return, they’re taking advantage of all that’s at their fingertips.
“The things that you would think you would miss in other cities are here, that’s the misconception. We went to concerts, sports engagements, ballet, things we didn’t even get to do in California because of the cost of living,” Ukabam said.
Both are now planting new roots in Oklahoma soil.
“Yeah, I think it’s home, you know, and I think home will always be where you create it, right, said Reyes said.
All from an online ad they happened to scroll across—promising a payday with an even sweeter adventure.
“I feel like myself; I’m able to explode into what I’m destined to do, Ukabam said. “I feel like I’m really here reaching my destiny, this is the place I need to be, so I’m here to stay.”
Both men say that $10,000 was a great incentive but that their desire for a fresh start was greater.
For those who are interested, Tulsa Remote is currently taking applications for 2021; click here to apply.